Question

Water is a precious natural resource in Florida, and it is said that supplies are dwindling. Desalinization (salt removal) of ocean water has been recommended as a solution to the problem. Why shouldn’t we drink salt water?

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Drinking seawater causes dehydration. In the case of drinking a large amount of seawater, death can occur.

Seawater is a highly hypertonic solution comparing to blood and cells in the body. This means the kidneys have to excrete large amounts of salt to maintain homeostasis. To do that, the body must urinate a large amount of water to remove excess salt. This amount of water exceeds the water intake, which leads to dehydration.

It is easy to understand the principle of the process if we know what happens to the cell in the hypertonic solution. There are more dissolved substances and less water in such a solution than in the cell—a concentration gradient forms, which causes water to move from the cell to the surrounding solution. The cell thus loses water and shrinks.

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